I’ll never contend to be the biggest sci-fi fan, I tend to like my fiction grounded in reality without the additions of the fantastical like time traveling, clones, aliens, new worlds and so on. I especially don’t like these elements when they’re solely used off their gimmicks alone, while yes in certain context I may like some of these elements, but when they’re just added for a “cool” factor and have no bearing on the “real world” of the piece’s story, it remains just a gimmick for you to watch it and has no real value outside of that. Battlestar Galactica treats its science fiction smartly and allows the show to feel very much like a grounded in reality fiction story that just so happens to feature these elements.
Now I know Battlestar Galactica isn’t the first science fiction show to reflect or highlight real world ideas and concept through the eyes of a sci-fi world, but it certainly does well to exemplify that as a major tenant, but still includes base science fiction tropes because that’s what kind of show it is after all. The plot itself is very straightforward and basic, where the Cylons (a cyborg group of bad guys) destroyed the Colonies (planets where humans lived aka the good guys), and the Battlestar Galactica ship, one of the last remaining ships, takes upon itself to lead the survivors to a new safe haven and fight off whatever Cylon threats get in their way.
The mysteries and unknown of the Cylons is really well done, with the show positioning this creepy element to start the series mentioning how the Cylons had been unheard of for years until the day that they decided to destroy civilization, leading hanging questions of why and why now. The Cylons also have the ability to become fully humanoid where many of them are seen as clones to the actual human version of a person, adding another mysterious element and an easy move in the back-pocket of the show as they could reveal pretty much anyone as a undercover Cylon, so that always lurks in the background.
What truly makes Battlestar Galactica stand out is its very real world happenings and many different layers of a genre show that’s not always just a science fiction show. The battling members in charge between the commander of the Battlestar Galactica William Adama and the president of the Twelve Colonies Laura Roslin posits this struggle for power between the two where they try to play nice as much as possible, but their contention is always bubbling underneath. As such the show plays a lot of the time like a political show like The West Wing where it concerns much finagling and political discourse to enact measures and figure out what to do with these people when they’re not only on the run, but nobody is truly in power under any “legal” means.
Along with both leaders, pretty much everybody in the show is portrayed as being very strong, especially the female characters which you don’t often see, with Starbuck being our defacto underling protagonist as a badass pilot who doesn’t take orders from anyone. Number Six is our view into the head of humanoid Cylons who is as cunningly dangerous as she is beautiful, where they never really cheapen her by using her seduction as anything more than her trying to get her nefarious means any way she can.
Something that I love about this show, too, so far, is that it’s not really about happy endings so much and continues this underlying theme of depression throughout. If something happy happens be sure that within a few moments something will pop up to upend that. It’s refreshing to see a show that doesn’t consistently put their good guys on easy street and for every mission to be a cake walk, where here everything at least seems to be of more of an importance given the true underdog stakes that the Battlestar Galactica always seems to be facing against the Cylons.
The first season does a good job of setting up this world, posing questions, outlining the stakes and positioning characters and ideas to where things might go. It seems like a framework so easily susceptible to tension and upheaval which would exactly seem par for the course about a political show in the midst of an alien-cyborg attack. This world and story is wrought for deepening in not only the science fiction aspect, but also the human and societal aspect where both sides are so intrinsically tied it’s only guaranteed that aren’t going to get any easier in the increasingly changing landscape of Battlestar Galactica.